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Detached Housing Still A Crucial Part of the American Dream

Samuel Staley
November 1, 2011, 10:13pm

Wendell Cox has plowed through the Census data and discovered the single-family detached home--the icon of American sprawl--isn't going away anytime soon. Nearly 80 percentof the households in the top 51 US metropolitan areas chose single-family detached housing over apartments, condominiums, duplexes, mobile homes, and boats. In fact, over the last decade, single family detached housing has increased its market share of total housing, even in metropolitan areas like New York-Newark. Writing over at newgeography.com (11/1/2011), Wendell also observes:

Another conventional assumption is that single family homes have been disproportionately abandoned by their occupants, particularly since the collapse of the housing bubble. This is also not true. In 2010 detached housing enjoyed a 92.4% occupancy rate in 2010 which is higher than the 89.4% occupancy rate in attached housing and 84.2% occupancy rate in multi-unit buildings. Because a more of the multi-unit housing is rental, it is to be expected that the vacancies would be the highest in this category. However, at the national level, overall vacancy rates rose the most in multi-unit housing, with an increase of 61%, from 10.7% in 2000 to 17.1% in 2010. The vacancy rate in detached housing rose at a slower rate, from 7.3% in 2000 to 10.7% in 2010, an increase of 48%. Attached housing – such as townshouses – have the slowest rise in vacancy rate, from 8.4% in 2000 to 11.0% in 2010, an increase of 32%.

This is not a trivial finding. Many in the planning community and leading urbanists are claiming that the housing recession has resulted in a "Great Reset," where American households will be choosing fewer traditional homes and living in more dense and urban environments. The data so far suggest that the "reset" may not be as great as some may think.


Samuel Staley is Research Fellow


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